The little engine that could

I think I can….I can…I can. The values of today as well as yesteryear have not changed. Because the boys and girls are still reading the little engine that could. Some are still reading the original that was published in 1930 stressing optimism and hard work.

This was also a book that encouraged me to become a better reader. Reading was a struggle in first and second grades but it was the little engine that could that told me I could do this too. And I did…I did.

I began to think about the little engine while watching a student in my class follow the words being read out loud on his starfall iPad reading app. But this was a tale of two little engines that together, they could do it. The book talks about the  little red engine who trys and trys while a similar blue little engine helps push the cars of toys over the mountain. Other engines also pass them by.  This version focuses on true teamwork.

The student was excited about the story adding the types of childhood inflection repeating words as I did decades ago. He read it over and over in class. The same week that I noticed him become entranced in little engines, another student selected a book from the wide variety in the classroom. The original Little Engine that could.

And she did the same with the small, hard copy book. She decided to read it outloud while others listened. Later that day we had an assembly with a few members from the Kane county cougar team supporting are reading program.  Once again, one baseball player said that his favorite book was …guess what? Three times. … a charm.

So, of course, after school that same day, I went to the community library. I had saved many of my childhood favorites in a bookcase at home but not this one. There were many editions of the book as I discovered through the digital card catalog  including , a DVD, and a movie. But copies were checked out and the librarian said that it was always like that with The Little Engine That Could. Would I like The Little Engine That Could Gets a Check Up?

No, that is fine. I will just have the students read to me the copies at the school I assist,  whenever I need to be reminded of my childhood..my beginnings of academic success. Whenever I need to know,today, that I still can!

 

 

 

 

 

Lemonade stands, summer theater and art fairs for charity

I never liked lemonade…..too sour! So my childhood friends and I upgraded one summer on our porch in Chicago. We had been to an excellent ice cream shop in Old Town so we briefly tried to do the same by making sodas. We called our shop Sip and Stir with a big sign and tissue flowers, made out of Kleenex, brightening the red brick of the porch. My Moms bathroom was blue and my girlfriends was pink so we had a colorful combination of flowers. We had a small cooler with vanilla ice cream, metal cups and a couple of cans of 50/50 soda. My father’s glass shop was across the street from Canfields factory and we got free soda.

We lasted about an hour. The flowers kept falling down. The ice cream began to melt. And no one showed up.  Not one person bought a soda out of the goodness of their heart…even our Mom’s were not that interested. And the day we chose was hot.

So, the following summer, we decided to forget the stands of drinks and be much more creative. We would plan an event in advance and sell tickets. We were a little older, more responsible and invited many to be in a play that we wrote together about Betsy Ross sewing the American flag. I don’t remember the details but I directed and played a part. We held the play in my basement where it was nice and cool. We actually had costumes that was supplied by a friends Mom. It would be many years later that I acted and directed in plays as a student and high school teacher.

In the 1990’s, my own had their plays and stand but took it one step further. They created their works of art to be displayed outdoors at our organized summer art fair for Luries Children’s Hospital. Eleven by fourteen paintings, splashed in watercolor or acrylic, hung on the fence for all to see.  Prior to the event,  we then took each drawing and framed them with the right color to highlight each design while finally dressing them in plastic just in case of a sudden rain.

Once all the artwork was submitted and framed, a panel of judges intently studied the variety of floral bouquets, favorite pets as well as trains, planes, automobiles and a selection of rainbows. Each category produced a first, second and third place winner with the appropriate ribbon displayed on the frame. Honorable mention was awarded to those without a ribbon And we collected over a 100 dollars and the children were in the newspaper.

Creating a charitable legacy is the foundation for every success story and starting the early teachings of charity at home is one of the grandest gifts that we can offer to our young. Help them now so they can continue to build their own world rich in selfless endeavors.

Gather your grandchildren, advertise at their school or community center, talk to your neighbors and friends about hosting an art fair with prizes for your favorite cause; a wonderful way to inspire the art of charity in your grandchildren’s hearts.

 

 

What are your children doing this summer?

As a child, with the exception of weekend trips, summer vacation was not always fun for me. Reading alone was difficult and I did receive help when in school but I envied those that enjoyed sitting down on a rainy afternoon with Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. I also missed my best friend who went to summer day camp. It wasn’t fair and to this day, I am not sure why I couldn’t go with her. Sadly, I would wait on the sidewalk for the bus to drop her off. Some days were long….very long for me, my dolls and my swing set.

When my own children were growing up, many summers I worked, but I always tried to make every vacation or field trip a true learning opportunity. We always visited museums and trips would focus on their interests. For example, my son loved trains so there was always visits, to unique train shops, museums, and of course, rides on the Chicago Metra. My daughter loved photography and she spent a few days with a photographer to learn more about the working world of that profession; exposing her to possible career choices in the future.

Dr. Pam Roggeman is a proven academic leader familiar with and passionate about technology in progressive education and has extensive experience designing curriculum; preparing teachers in a university setting. She currently serves as the Academic Dean for the College of Education at University of Phoenix. Below, she provides wonderful suggestions for a summer filled with fun, learning, self-improvement skills and essential family time.

Create a “matching agreement.” For every hour spent in front of a screen entertaining themselves, have your child match that time in with a learning activity. Most book stores or a quick online search will have workbooks for math, reading and writing to practice skills. Have your kids do work like this to “earn and accumulate” time they can bank for screen time.

Set “learning self-improvement goals” such as a number of books read, minutes of math tutorials a day, or pages written and then agree on a fun reward for goals attained. Make it more meaningful to your kids by allowing them to decide what they’d like to learn and study. Make it even more meaningful by creating rewards for attaining the goals. These rewards don’t have to cost you anything – maybe they can earn sleepovers with friends, breakfast in bed or “owning” the TV remote for a night.

Summer reading can be essential for students to maintain and continue building their reading skills. This summer, help your children find books that will make the child think on a much larger level. Together, explore your child’s interests and find books that feed those interests.

Encourage your children to keep a journal to regularly document their activities throughout the summer. This is key because kids will start to see their accomplishments on paper. This can be a conversation starter at the dinner table, “what did you do today that will make it into your journal?” When they go back to school and the teacher asks, “What did you do all summer?” they will have the best answer in class!

Look for educational camps and structured social activitiesthat parents can in participate with their children. Make every vacation an opportunity to have the whole family grow and learn together. Maybe visit a different museum in a town nearby that would make a great day trip, or when you take that drive to the local national or state park, take the time to read the information about its origin and why it was established. Be the parent who researches and does the leg work to find the fun, educational activities at your local community center and invite your child’s best friend to attend.

Use the summer to do the kind of learning you don’t have time to do during the school year.

Capture

By CARYL CLEM

Never too late to capture a dream

Rekindle hopes, aspirations redeem

No limits, ahead an endless stream

Emotions on fire, bright as a diamond’s gleam.

A day lost in time with no tomorrow

Love, generosity, absolutely no sorrow

Nothing regretted, nothing reserved

Momentum builds as does nerve

Finally free from the past

Roles, rewards newly cast

Soul’s freedom of expression

Uncovers thirst for exploration

Just ahead out of view

An adventure is waiting for you

Holding on is letting go

Faith tempering ego

Jump forward, risk it all

Possession is perception’s recall.

 

Where do you go for ice cream in Chicago?

As summer begins to blossom in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs, so do trips with family to the ice cream parlors and there is nothing like a step back in time with some of the old-time ice cream shops that are unchanged from decades earlier.  Offering superb ice cream homemade creations. During the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, ice cream saloons began to spring up known as ladies cafes  with lavish gaslight, mirrors and gilded chairs. Today, the best parlors also boost homemade cones, unique sauces and sundae toppings that offer fresh fruit and nuts to the already sumptuous ice cream special.

Petersens

Hans Petersen trained as Confectioner in his native land and more than 90 years ago opened his first ice cream shop in Oak Park. Creamy homemade ice cream includes such flavors Mackinac Island Fudge with rich fudge chunks in vanilla ice cream and excellent hot fudge sundaes. Distributing products throughout the US, Petersen’s offers old fashioned ambience and outdoor seating during the summer. basis.

The Brown Cow

Only a short distance from Petersens, The Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor in Forest Park was recently featured on the Cooking Channel and Sinful Sweets. The parlor’s ice cream is homemade and they also serve freshly baked pies and cakes. Drinks feature homemade brown cow root beer  and several ice cream flavors that include bubble gum . Brown Cow will also host your next event and decorate as well.

Tates

Old fashioned ice cream in LaGrange, IL  offers walls filled with history and great opportunity for little ones to host a tea party with their favorite dessert. Family owned Tates has been making their own ice cream for over 24 years and offers a wonderful banana split, chocolate malted milk and raspberry truffle. Tates offers special days that include loving Friday Treats and the occasional special guest like Snow White.

Plush Horse

For over 75 years the Plush Horse in Palos Park offers a nostalgic atmosphere with an overwhelming selection of homemade ice cream flavors such as egg nog  for the holidays.  Plush Horse offers a variety of ice cream with out sugar added as well as sorbet that includes a Sangria flavor and a  popular caramel sea salt gelato. Parties are available in a private room of vintage charm .

Bobtail

On Broadway in Chicago, another quality ice cream parlor with cozy decor that represents the 1950’s ice cream adventure. Featuring special sundaes such a their s’more combination and  a vanilla milkshake with double espresso. Besides ice cream originals, Bobtail offers an amazing German chocolate cake and carrot cake They also sell at wholesale prices to cafes and ice cream shops looking to scoop super-premium homemade ice cream for cones, cups, sundaes and shakes

Rainbow

On the southwest side of Chicago, the original 90 year old Rainbow cone shop was  a legendary Chicago favorite. It still offers the cone that is packed with five ice cream flavors including chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House which is a New York Vanilla with cherries and walnuts, pistachio and finally orange sherbet to finish the top of the cone. Just recently, the ice cream shop will have a small kiosk on Navy Pier’s South Dock.

Finnigan’s Ice Cream Parlor

Inside the Museum of Science and Industry, Finnigan’s ice cream offers tiffany lighting and  antique servicing pieces still used to represent the turn of the century. Finnigan’s is based on a real Hyde Park ice cream parlor that opened in 1917. Ice cream including their banana split is excellent with massive scoops for servings. Finnigan’s is located on the second floor of the museum behind the coal mine

Homers Gourmet Ice Cream

Homemade gourmet ice cream was produced in 1935 and some say that gangster Al Capone was a frequent visitor for  a thick, creamy ice cream treat at Homers located in Wilmette, Il.  Still using the original recipe from Guy Poulos in 1935, Homers offers some unique flavors such as burgandy cherry, green tea and kona Hawaiian coffee ice cream. They also offer a wide variety of fruit sherberts and frozen yogurts.

Capannari Ice Cream

A quaint little shop located in Mount Prospect, IL, Capannari old fashioned ice cream is another great stop on your ice cream journey famous for their black forest licorice flavor and madagascar vanilla. Capannari hosts a multitude of free, family events including their signature Mooo-vie Night and Concert -In-The-Park Series, also supporting local schools. Others have also raved over the cherry Bordeaux and chocolate peanut butter crunch.

 

Parents are highly encouraged to participate in their child’s digital play

As a recess first grade monitor, children’s first choice is outside on the playground or playing soccer though some that may be shy will sit on a bench with me until someone offers them a swing or slide. Indoor recess when the weather is poor is always in the classrooms playing in groups without technology. Those choices usually includes building Lego,Jenga mountains or cooking with silly putty in small groups.

They love traditional play times and will work hard not to lose any recess minutes. All the children have an I pad and our given breaks to play educational digital games. Both types of play are generally exciting to the boys and girls. But is one better than the other?

The Genius of Play  is a national movement to raise awareness of play’s vital role in child development, spearheaded by the Toy Association. Deeply rooted in research and facts, The Genius of Play is a leading resource on the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional benefits of play that serve children throughout their lives.

They released a new panel report that included child development and digital media experts convened by The Genius of Play during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January of this year.

“Kids learn and develop crucial skills through all types of play – structured and unstructured, as well as traditional and digital play,” said Ken Seiter, The Toy Association’s executive vice president of marketing communications and the panel’s moderator. “It’s important that parents understand that screen-based or online playdoes not have to be an all or nothing experience. Our panel of experts was extremely knowledgeable and shared best practices for appropriately fostering kids’ development through digital play.”

The panel, which included Sara DeWitt, vice president of PBS Kids Digital, Dr. Jodi Sherman LeVos, director of child development & learning at Mattel, and emotional dynamics expert Dr. Erik Fisher, explored the evolving nature of play in today’s world and sought to provide parents with guidance on how to incorporate all types ofplay into a child’s daily routine. The experts’ consensus: when it comes to digital play, experiences that have a clear learning intent combined with parental engagement are paramount.

INSIGHTS FROM THE PANEL:

Play exists in a variety of arenas and forms. Opportunities for play are everywhere: at home, in school, in stores, at amusement parks, etc. Kids get the most benefit when traditional and digital play exist simultaneously, in a balanced environment.

The best kind of digital play is high-quality content that’s designed with clear learning objectives. These objectives should include: improving cognitive thinking; building language skills; encouraging social skills; and/or promoting creativity.

Technology gives kids a variety of perspectives on the world. Technology supports traditional play by reinforcing key values and adding another dimension to the play experience. For instance, apps and game play can bring unique worlds to life and allow children to explore these worlds in a new way.

Technology can also help drive the benefits of play by emphasizing personalized and adaptive learning. The best kind of high-tech play involves quality engagement in short bursts that engages kids while extending their knowledge in other areas. For instance, if a system can detect a child struggling with a particular concept, offering tutorials or prompts is an area where technology can really help kids learn.

Parents are highly encouraged to participate in their child’s digital play and ask questions. Implementing this type of interaction at an early age builds on communication skills between parent and child, develops trust, and prepares children for more serious talks about internet safety as they grow.

“Why Play is the Secret Sauce for Raising the Next Generation of Digital Innovators, A Special Report by The Genius of Play”​ can be downloaded at TheGeniusOfPlay.org.

Always a teacher

As they walk through the door

My influence will be mirrored in each of their faces

And I wonder if I can give them what they need

But when the first questions spill from their lips,

I embrace the assets I have by my side

For throughout the course of my day,

I become the expert, coach, playwright and director

I am the motivational speaker and the historian of colorful memory and experience

I am the fire-fighter extinguishing negativity, fear,

Confusion and disappointment

I am many people and exactly what I want to be

As my passion relentlessly grows for them,

So does their passion for me

I then see promising lives begin to emerge

And new opportunities expand for many who thought

Defeat their only option

I have given them a future they richly deserve

But most of all, I have designed a monument of faith,

Hope and trust between us

What more can I say…………I am a teacher.

They have hatched!

For me and my children, it began at the Museum of Science and Industry where we watched the chicks hatch in a giant incubator. Usually we would catch chicks in progress,scratching, pecking and some newly born, tired and wet.  Seeing baby chicks hatch daily has been going on since 1956.

After our trip, my son and daughter would steal eggs from the refrigerator trying to warm them under lamps or pillows expecting their own miracle.

However, today in my school,  first graders have it all when it comes to learning genetics. Six first grade classes have their own incubator and every year eggs that are fertilized are purchased and sit for 21 days. Students discuss the development of the embryo each day and halfwaythrough, a teacher candles each egg with a flashlight to see how they are doing.

In the past, incubators have been broken and in some classes, eggs did not hatch. Nevertheless, in my class, eight have hatched and students did understand that chicks may be sick or have other problems. Most seemed healthy and have not beaten each other up which has occurred before.

The excitement began on a Sunday which was day 20 and carried into Monday and Tuesday. At the beginning of school on day 21, two brown chicks were ready to be transferred to their makeshift fish tank of grain and water after hatching the night before.

Throughout the day on Monday and Tuesday, we watched them peck holes in the eggs, some eggs cracked all around, but, eventually, more brown and yellow joined their brothers and sisters in the fish tank. The classroom children were driven to the fish tank like a magnets some more reserved until they were called over to hold a chick while their picture was taken.

The classes had five days to watch them grow and I was surprised how they sprouted so quickly. And by the end of the week, the chickens were sent to various farms or donors.

We finally had to say goodbye, one we had already named Marvin.

School chicken hatching is an annual part of the first grade curriculum and in our class it was an exceptional experience. Even for me as I sent pictures to my own adult children responding with how cute, is that a real incubator and why didn’t we have that in school.

Times change but we can still plan a family field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry. Oh…wouldn’t that be fun! We could go to the Coal mine, the fairy castle,  Yesteryear and we could get ice cream………

And, of course, the Hatchery!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It looks like a lilac to me

During the spring, it stood in the east outdoor corner of my childhood yard. Probably the most healthy of the plants that grew there. I couldn’t wait for my Mom to cut a large bunch, wrap them in tin foil during Springs mornings before school and give them to my favorite teachers; usually for my kindergarten, first grade and my fourth grade.

Then, I had no idea that the elegant smelling lavender lilacs would not last very long. Old Moms did not know the tricks in getting the beautiful fragrance to last more than a day.

Even when I became a Mom, I did not have a lilac bush at home so I would steal my neighbors lilacs at night. He was a great, longtime friend watching his tree dwindle but never said a word. I scattered them in vases throughout the house knowing not to send them to school with my little ones. Not because they were stolen…but knowing they would fade quickly.  My own children didn’t seem to be that interested anyway in brightening their teachers day with flowers from the garden.

My neighbor moved and I was scared to steal anymore so I  planted a lilac tree in our backyard. As it grew, my developing children pressed their noses into the tree while filling my vases inside and out.

However, I still liked my neighbors tree better; the fragrance was more overpowering reminding me of my youth. Occasionally, after many years, I will race down the street with scissors in hand when no one is watching.

Helping lilacs live longer:

If you want to give it a try, take a cutting from a healthy lilac and place the stem in a clear or amber glass or jar with 1 to 2 inches of water. Be sure to strip the leaves from the part of the stem that will be in the water to keep the cutting from rotting. Add fresh water as needed.

Though she did not know my love for lilacs, a first grader gave me one of the best handmade flower that looks like a lilac to me! That especially reminds me of the gratitude towards teachers that is still expressed and appreciated today. Thankfully those virtues remain.

I will be sure to wrap my flower carefully…maybe in tin foil….and take home from school to celebrate my summer vacation. The flower can sit beside me in a protected vase during the early months of summer while I lounge outside………under my lilac tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sucker Tree

My grandfather’s whitewashed farmhouse was located in small town, central Illinois framed by an ever-changing horizon and guarded by cornstalks.  Each had grown tall with gangling arms, restive and ready to capture their trespassers, twisting their leafy fingers round and round, threatening to arrest me. I was only six years old then.

I quickly made my way inside the chipped picket fence, protected from the grasp of the tawny soldiers.

The screen door creaked and cracked like the bones of an elder, opening and shutting again as Granddad reached for me with outstretched arms of endearment.

Behind the thick panes of his spectacles, his narrow eyes glistened with delight.  His face flushed with excitement, the color of the early autumn foliage that vividly shaded his home that day.

“I have another surprise for you, little one,” he spoke in a whisper.

Of course, I was expecting this and returned his words with a huge grin.  Once again, Granddad had not let me down for my visits were always greeted with something truly wonderful, a phenomena for the entire world to see but, unfortunately, allowed for Granddad and my eyes only!

He slowly took a seat in his polished, Hitchcock rocker and I piled into his lap, anxious to listen.

“Out back, only a few feet away from the house, my child, something very special is happening,” he said.

“What is it, Granddad?”  I responded, eyes wide with childhood curiosity.

He paused for a moment to gather his thought, clearing his aged vocal cords as well.

“A tree is just starting to bloom!”

……….Granddad had topped himself with amazing stories this time!  I wondered if his mind had taken a wrong turn somewhere, the grownups called it senility, I think.  Anyway, I was always considered bright for my years and knew better to believe that trees did not prosper during this particular season!  Leaves transformed from green to brown, then withered and fell to the ground to be either raked away or covered with blankets of snow at the onset of winter weather.  It didn’t take experience in years to attain that knowledge so what was this man fabricating now?

I was extremely disappointed, to say the least.

“Granddad, trees don’t bloom in autumn!”  I said in defiance.

“This one does,” he answered confidently.

Granddad had never lied to me in the past.  Did he really know something that the rest of Illinois and I had not encountered.  It was certainly possible.  In fact anything was possible.

“What kind of tree is it?”  I asked, attempting to pacify Granddad, giving him the benefit of the doubt.

“A sucker tree!”  he proudly announced.  “When all the other trees and shrubs shed their leafy dress, this tiny tree begins to thrive with lollipops of rainbow colors.  One by one, they pop out like magic with stems and all, dangling from the branches.  When each sucker is ripe and just the right size, they can be picked and eaten.”

As Granddad continued to go on and on, I was mesmerized by his delightful description.  This was too good…..just too good to be true!  However, once again, Granddad had me right where he wanted me.

“Are the suckers ripe now?”  I asked, nearly jumping out of his lap.

“Well, let’s find out,” he suggested as we climbed out of the rocker and quickly headed to the backyard.

He gestured for me to go first and my impatience caused me to slide down the back steps, my bottom sore and surely splintered right through my pants!

I didn’t care because, only a few inches from me, a miracle really was occurring right before my startling eyes.

A young tree, only a foot or two taller than myself, caught my undivided attention.  Its’ trunk looked like any other and it was naked of leaves but, lo and behold, lollipops, approximately four inches round, hung delicately on their stems from each branch.  There were five or six already in bloom and pink, blue, yellow, and green colors swirled in their centers.  Each childhood delicacy gently swayed to the tunes of the afternoon breeze.

“Can I pick one?”  I uttered in a small voice.

This was a sight that would be locked in my memory for all time.

“Why, of course,” he smiled.  “Two, if you like”

My mouth watered as I let my tongue whirl around on the colors, blending the pinks into the blues, creating my own masterpiece and savoring its’ flavor while the sucker shrunk in size, eventually disappearing into my belly.

I hugged Granddad tightly, thanking him for letting me share this fascinating September event.

The following year in early autumn, Granddad had passed to another land and my heart ached for his return that could never be.  I would miss him for many years to come.

After his funeral, I removed myself from the crowd and took a seat on those familiar back steps to gaze on nature’s evolution.  Each tree had changed color and their leaves began to drop to their demise, almost like what had happened to my Granddad.

I then focused on the sucker tree.  Its’ barren branches seemed to stretch wearily toward the sky as if asking God to return my Granddad.  Not one lollipop adorned its’ arms.  The tree was lost without him for only Granddad knew the secret ingredients that could provide the tree with eternal like.  The sucker tree had become a fabric of memory along with my brilliant Granddad sitting beside it.